Sunday, February 24, 2008

Opening Night at Eight Pints of Poetry!

The first night of my poetry club – Eight Pints of Poetry! – went well!

Ash Dickinson, the Edinburgh Fringe’s current slam poetry champion, performed two good half-hour sets; I compered, reading more than 15 poems, and a very good open spot, Iona Jette, did about seven minutes.

After a tremendous family effort flyering during the previous week, the room was half full (rather than half empty!) which I thought a respectable result for the opening night.

And the crazy talk downstairs in the bar afterwards reminded me of the sozzled excesses of the Joe’s Comedy Madhouse years (not necessarily a good thing!)

The next gig is on Friday, 14 March (Doors: 8pm, Show: 8.30pm), again at the Lewes Arms, Mount Place, Lewes, East Sussex.

The headliner is the legendary Attila the Stockbroker. With a packed room and a few more open mic-ers, it could be the perfect poetry night!

I have been in the Lewes Garret for 12 days now.

It is nice to be home, having a rest, but I have found it hard slipping into the vibe here in Lewes. Strange! It makes me wonder how I will get on soon when I am back fulltime.

Before I left, I did my last performance on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio. It was the best of the three.

I was on with a guest presenter, John Butler (not my Oxford friend of the same name but a Cov Kid and former stand-up comedian), and the resident guest for the slot, the station’s poet laureate Jo Roberts.

I felt more relaxed than before; we had a good chat about the council’s plans to invest a billion quid (yes, a thousand million pounds) in another re-development of its precinct.

When I had lived in Coventry 20 years before, I pointed out, the council had been planning to re-develop the precinct. Now they are starting again!

Before the show, I had looked at images of Coventry before the blitz of 1940.

Although I had worked as a reporter at the Coventry Evening Telegraph from 1986-88, I had never seen these pictures before.

I was struck by how beautiful Coventry had been, and how much damage Gibson had done with his master plan for concrete re-development.

Moreover, I walked past the shanty town bit of the city centre, the Parson’s Nose et cetera, and saw it condoned off by the police because a murdered man’s body had been found.

I thought: Coventry has not changed. More than 60 years after the end of the Second World War, it still hasn’t been rebuilt.

And 20 years after I left, its people are still slaughtering each other!

On BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio, I recited a poem I had written on this theme, Coventry Precinct.

Then I read Give Me A Haircut Like Byron!, and Women. They seemed to go well.

It was one of my better performances; I felt great afterwards. I shall miss BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio – a fine institution, worth the licence fee on its own!

The following day I was due to interview a 1970s sex symbol who now runs a stud in England’s West Country.

I set off from the Leamington Garret bright and early and was almost there when I got a call on my mobile from her scatty personal assistant.

To my astonishment, I was told that the ex-siren was in London that day!

It turned out that her assistant could have told me this days before but had simply forgotten – until I had driven hundreds of miles at high speed and was almost there!

She offered to re-arrange the interview but, in my disgust, I told them to shove it, and went to Weymouth for the day.

I should explain that Weymouth is one of my favourite places in the world – and a mere 200 miles from Leamington.

Admittedly, it took a little time to drive to Weymouth, but I was there for lunch – fish and chips in the baking hot sun. For a day in February, the weather was quite extraordinary.

I loved the quintessential blueness of the skies, the wide open beaches, the bustling harbour.

Some of my happiness memories are in Weymouth.

My father would drive the family Morris Oxford from Oxford to Weymouth.

The journey would seem to take an eternity (it is almost as far as from Oxford as from Leamington), but it was worth it to splash around in the acres of paddling waters, row my beloved inflatable canoe, and play the amusements.

I found the Weymouth shop where I think I bought the canoe, and went into the amusement arcade that me and my brothers liked the most.

Remarkably, inside it seemed hardly changed. I swear one of the attractions was even exactly the same - more than 35 years on!

Sundown found me at Portland Bill – a spectacular spot on the Isle of Portland, attached to Weymouth by the slightest spit of land.

I chatted to the twitchers (and they showed me some birds), and I met an old gentleman who was there with his granddaughter.

By the time I’d returned to the Leamington Garret that night, I’d driven 409 miles that day, and was absolutely drained. But happy...

On the way back to Lewes, my faithful motor, the Astra Martin, went through 180 (‘One Hunnnnnnnnnnndrrrrrrrrrrrrred and Ehhhhhhhhhhty!’ as they used to say when my Uncle Jocky was winning at darts) thousand miles on the clock.

* I also went to London for the day, taking in a very misty Hampstead Heath, Keats’ Garden, and a spectacularly beautiful Richmond at sunset.

Friends, I shall leave you with that image as I set off from Leamington with a heavy heart.

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Great blog

Saturday, 17 May, 2008  

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